ISKCON is ramping up for its mega 50th anniversary celebrations, with events to be held all over the world throughout the year 2016. These will commemorate the day Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada officially registered the society in New York on July 11th, 1966.
But ISKCON will warm up for that by celebrating another 50th in 2015. They’ll commemorate both Prabhupada’s leaving Kolkata on the steamship Jaladuta on August 13th, 1965, and his arriving in Boston, USA on September 17th.
ISKCON India’s Eastern temples have banded together with chairman Sankarshan Nitai Das to organize events centered around the first part of his journey.
Starting in January 2015, they’ll theme all their temple festivals around Prabhupada’s spiritual quest. They’ll distribute thousands of his books, put up billboards that celebrate his achievements and hold public Harinamas at Kolkata locations that were key in his earlier life.
They’ll also organize programs at schools and colleges where they’ll distribute literature on Prabhupada’s life and ISKCON’s history, then give the students quizzes on what they’ve read.
The celebrations will reach their peak in August, when hundreds of devotees will embark on a walking pilgrimage retracing Prabhupada’s journey from Sri Mayapur Dhama to Kolkata’s Khidirpur Dock.
The pilgrimage will begin on August 8th in Mayapur, with devotees visiting the shrine of Prabhupada’s guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, where Prabhupada prayed before leaving for the U.S.
On August 12th it will reach Kolkata, where it will stop at several important places in Prabhupada’s life. These will include the Radha-Madan-Mohan temple his father Gour Mohan De used to visit when Prabhupada was a small boy; Govinda Bhavan, where Prabhupada stayed with his father, mother and sisters; and Scottish Church College, where he received his education as a young man.
Four major programs will follow. On August 13th, various political leaders, government officials and Prabhupada disciples will attend an event at Khidirpur Dock, where Prabhupada boarded the Jaladuta on the same day back in 1965.
On the 14th, ISKCON leaders and key donors will attend a program at Ravindra Sarovara auditorium, near Srila Prabhupada’s birthplace in the Kolkata suburb of Tollygunge, which ISKCON purchased in spring 2013.
On the 15th, a festival for youth from all over India will be held at the prestigious Science City Auditorium.
And finally on August 16th, a grand satsang program will take place at Netaji Indoor Stadium which organizers hope will be attended by 20,000 people, including spiritual and political leaders, namahatta congregational members, and ISKCON leaders from all over Eastern India.
Each of these four programs will feature talks about Srila Prabhupada’s achievements in bringing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message of Krishna consciousness to Western shores, along with kirtan, bhajan, Deity worship, Odissi and Bharat Natyam dance, and a short film on Prabhupada in Kolkata.
The Kolkata events will be followed by a program organized by Bhaktivinode Swami in Coimbatore, South India, the last Indian port the Jaladuta stopped at – to load Srila Prabhupada’s books – before heading off for the U.S.
Celebrations will continue to follow Prabhupada’s path when devotees in Boston – who have always commemorated the ISKCON Founder’s arrival at Commonwealth Pier – will organize their biggest event yet on September 17th, in honor of the day when he arrived at age 69 with just $7 and a box of books.
After that, GBC Bhaktimarga Swami, famous for his cross-country walks in Canada, will walk from Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, where Prabhupada stayed with Gopal and Sally Agarwal, and then on to New York where, of course, Prabhupada registered ISKCON.
All this is expected to drum up suitable excitement for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary in 2016, when devotees and communities all over the world will be planning 50th anniversary events in their own locations.
Ananga Mohan Das, communications director for Eastern India’s events, can’t wait. “There is a great sense of unity amongst devotees in this celebration, and in letting the world know what Srila Prabhupada achieved,” he says.